Having someone to handle your financial affairs in the event of your incapacity can help ensure that your property is cared for and your bills are paid. You can grant someone power of attorney to manage the financial assets you select, including your bank accounts, stocks, bonds and other investments. Older adults who are forgetful or susceptible to being taken advantage of can also benefit from a loved one overseeing their accounts.
A Power of Attorney gives you the ability to designate your spouse, child or a trusted agent (also called an attorney-in-fact) to conduct financial and property transactions on your behalf. Depending on the powers you authorize to your agent, the agent may be able to do the following:
If you become incapacitated from a sudden illness or accident, a Power of Attorney is one of the most important documents you can have because it enables your agent to quickly and easily manage your financial affairs without court involvement. Without a Power of Attorney, it may be difficult or impossible for someone else to ensure your bills are paid and to make other financial decisions on your behalf.
If you signed a Power of Attorney before July 1, 2017, it’s still a valid legal document, however, a bank, brokerage firm, insurance company or other financial institution may refuse to accept it. Why? Because on that date legislation went into effect that made significant changes to powers of attorney in Georgia and included a new statutory form. As banks and other institutions become familiar with the new form, the risk that they will reject powers of attorney that differ substantially from the form becomes increasingly likely.
To avoid any problems with your existing Power of Attorney, I can review the document to make sure it complies with the new law. If there is any uncertainty that it does not, you should get a new Power of Attorney.
It’s important that you have the new document in place while you are still competent and have the capacity to sign it. If you don’t have an effective Power of Attorney and dementia seriously impairs your thinking, it’s too late for the document to be signed. To protect your interests, a family member of friend will then have no alternative but to file guardianship and conservatorship proceedings in probate court. These last resort proceedings are complicated, lengthy and expensive and best avoided if possible.
Another reason to update your Power of Attorney is that a new properly drafted document may reduce the possibility of its abuse. Elder financial abuse is a growing problem and powers of attorney are often used to exploit seniors. I can include specific provisions, instructions and other protections in your Power of Attorney to help reduce or eliminate the risk and possibility of abuse. Because a Power of Attorney is such a powerful document, it is critical that the agent you choose is someone you trust implicitly and who will always act in your best interests. I can help guide you in selecting the appropriate agent.